Currently at Collierville PBC, I am preaching through the book of Jonah. It has been a rich study for me, and I hope the congregation has been blessed as well. In such a short book (4 chapters), many rich, prominent theological themes are seen. Today, I will look out at how Jonah highlights the Sovereignty of God.
God rules over everything. There is not one thing in the universe that is out from under His sovereign domain. Jonah gives us an up-front picture of this Scriptural teaching. It shows that God can use whatever instrument at His disposal to fulfill His purpose and pleasure for His glory. A violent storm on the Mediterranean Sea? Check. The casting of lots (similar to rolling a dice) to fall precisely on a disobedient prophet? Check. A huge fish swimming along at just the right time and equipped to swallow and house Jonah for three days? Check. This same huge fish capable of swimming close enough to shore to be able to vomit Jonah out on dry land? Check. A gourd, a worm and a vehement east wind used to expose the sinful heart of God’s prophet in order to teach him (and us) a valuable lesson? Check.
Remarkable! All these tools used by God to advance His purpose. He is the One who created and sustains botany and the weather, and is even engaged in such details as the casting of lots (Proverbs 16:33).
Furthermore, we see the sovereignty of God in capturing the hearts of sinful men. The sailors onboard the ship are brought to worship and sacrifice to Jehovah. The population of Nineveh, including the king, is moved to repentance and to cry out to God for mercy. The work of transforming the corrupt human heart is the greatest of the all the great works of God in Jonah. The fish, storm, gourd, worm and wind are not created in God’s image. They don’t rebel against their Creator. Human beings are created in God’s image and do rebel against Him. They love their sin rather than God. They are so blinded and enslaved by their sin that they will never repent and turn to God…unless the Almighty transforms their hearts and grants them the grace of repentance and faith. Believer, does this not strike a chord in your heart? It was not intellectual sharpness nor a godly family heritage that brought you to forsake sin and follow Christ. It was the power and mercy of God that opened your heart and brought you to love the Savior!
Another encouraging point concerning God’s sovereignty in this book is how God uses affliction in the lives of His people. Jonah’s specific affliction here came as a consequence of his rebellion to God’s command. A scary storm, a near-drowning experience and other circumstances were used by God to lovingly bring Jonah back to a place of seeking the face of God. A hard and frightening providence surely, but also a loving one. It is also noteworthy that God sent the storm and the fish not just with Jonah’s discipline in mind. He also had Nineveh in mind! These events were God’s means to physically deliver and spiritually restore Jonah so that the Divine message would be delivered. God would use this restored prophet’s message to bring Nineveh to repentance and to display His amazing mercy.
You see, God was doing a lot. And the ultimate beneficiaries (Nineveh) were unaware of these events while they were happening to Jonah. God was working with a view to showing mercy to them, all while they sat in pagan, evil ignorance. Surely, we can draw from this that God is at work behind the scenes doing more than we can even imagine to advance His purposes, glorify His name and bless His people. We do not see all that He sees in the present, but we, by the book of Jonah, should be led to cheerfully trust His wise and gracious providence.
Remember, God’s word is not just intended for technical information. Rather, it is solid truth that should lead our hearts to worship. Is not such a sovereign God to be admired and praised? We are easily impressed and distracted by so many things. Jonah should remind us of how we ought to be impressed above all else by the living God. We get discouraged and frightened by evils around us in our world. Jonah should fortify our spirits and stir our minds to confident peace with this knowledge of God. Afflictions and trials (whether directly for our discipline or not) can often appear to make no sense and to swallow us up in a sense of gloom. Jonah reminds us that God’s love and wisdom are caring for our true well-being even when a storm threatens to drown us.
Another theme of the book of Jonah to come next time…